In April 2003, Canada will launch its first space telescope, expected to be the world’s smallest but also one of the most powerful, the Canadian Space Agency announced on Thursday.

Dubbed MOST (for Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars) and measuring about the size of a dessert plate, the instrument will provide ultraprecise measurements of stars’ varying brightness, according to Glen Campbell, manager of the Space and Life Sciences division at the Canadian Space Agency.

It will allow scientists to first probe the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system to determine the age of stars and then determine the approximate age of the universe, which has been estimated at 12 billion years, the agency said in a statement.

“Other countries are working on similar missions, but Canada is in a position to be the first,” Campbell said.

MOST will be launched from Plesetsk, Russia, on a launch vehicle known as Rockot.

The Canadian Space Agency provided the bulk of the funding for the 10 million-dollar (6.3 million-US-dollar) project.

The telescope was developed by the University of British Columbia.